Business gets personal as Season Four of Breaking Bad comes to an explosive end.
It's become clear that Breaking Bad is a critique of male empowerment fantasies masked as a male empowerment fantasy.
My Breaking Bad Binge Watch resumes, as the beginning of Season Four finds Walt and Jesse both trapped in hells of their own making.
At turns merry, scary, and melancholy, Steven Moffat's "Last Christmas" gets at the real heart of the holiday.
My obligatory year-end list of my 15 favorite shows of 2014.
Episode Eight of The Affair grapples with a key question: it it better to stick it out, or let it go?
On The Affair, questions of "right" and "wrong" are as complicated—and as subjective—as questions of "true" and "false."
The shaky train of Season Eight goes spectacularly off the rails in the worst story Steven Moffat has ever written.
As Noah and Alison move from fantasy to reality, The Affair proves that its alternating point-of-view structure is much more than a "gimmick."
One way we can look at The Affair is as a metaphor for the writing process, in which various drafts and revisions of the story are presented side-by-side…
If you want us to apply fairy-tale logic to Doctor Who, the tale in question needs to be better than this shapeless trifle from Frank Cottrell-Boyce.
The Affair is using a common—even banal—situation to explore smart and subtle questions about identity and subjectivity reality.
I can be as grumpy as the next critic, but seriously: anyone who can't love a Doctor Who episode like "Flatline" should get out of the Doctor Who-loving business.
On paper, Jamie Mathieson's debut has all the elements of a great episode, but this "Mummy" never quite comes to life.
The Affair, the new drama from Showtime, is the best new series of the year, and a daring attempt to expand the narrative possibilities of television.
Tough decisions, difficult confrontations, and painful emotional growth: sometimes, Doctor Who isn't meant to be easy.
"The Caretaker" is a relatively light episode of Doctor Who, but that doesn't mean there aren't important things happening: some of them kind of troubling.
As Season Three comes to an end, I embrace the spirit of "binge-watching" by attempting (with mixed success) to live-blog the last three episodes.
"Time Heist" isn't bad, it just isn't much of anything: it's all surface, no substance, delivering nothing more or less than what was promised in the title.
It's order vs. chaos, sin vs. redemption, and Walt vs. the fly as my Breaking Bad binge-watch continues.
Steven Moffat's stunning, exquisite "Listen" is an episode about nothing, and recognizing that nothing can be a very scary thing.
"That would be a rubbish idea," the Doctor says, and he might as well be talking about the entirety of Mark Gatiss's "Robot of Sherwood."
With an older star, a darker tone, and a slower pace, this is not your father's Doctor Who. (Or, more to the point, it is…)
The problem with with Walter White being torn between good and bad is that we want him to be bad. We need him to be bad. We crave the thrill of badness every bit as much as he does.
Everything old is new again in Doctor Who, but the show seems overly worried about whether we'll go along with the changes.
It's time for "Truth and Consequences, NM," as Walt's house of lies begins to crumble, and his mid-life crisis begins to ratchet up the body count.
As I binge-watch the first half of Breaking Bad's second season, I find myself wondering: is Walt the villain? And can Jesse possibly be the hero?
Steven Soderbergh spent most of his movie career making formulaic B-movies better than they had any right to be. Now he does the same thing for TV in a pretty but (so far) predictable new series from Cinemax.
Outlander may look like an old-fashioned bodice-ripper, but—based on this confident, compelling first episode—it may turn out to be groundbreaking television.
There's a big mystery at the center of Breaking Bad so far: just who exactly is Walter White? What happened to him, and what is he capable of, and does he have any moral center at all?
OPRHAN BLACK 2×09-10: "THINGS WHICH HAVE NEVER YET BEEN DONE" & "BY MEANS WHICH HAVE NEVER YET BEEN TRIED"
Orphan Black end its remarkable second season with darkness, discoveries, and dancing.
Binge-watching is increasingly how we watch television, so—in that spirit—I'm blasting through the first season of Breaking Bad, beginning with the first four episodes.
In the beginning, GAME OF THRONES seemed like a show about keeping the children safe. Now it's becoming a show about keeping safe from the children.
In a very special episode of Orphan Black, we meet long-lost brother Tony for the first—and let us hope last—time.
The concept of a "trial-by-combat" presupposes the intervention of a fair and just god. But what if the gods are all just vicious cunts?
In a television landscape in which the best we can usually hope for is an awareness of gender bias and misogynistic attitudes, ORPHAN BLACK is addressing them head on.
Some messy plotting and problematic character choices adds up to a bit of a mid-season slump for ORPHAN BLACK.
We all have a vision of the world the way it should be. It's a place where we all grow up in happy families (who care for us as they should), and we all go on adventures (which work out just the way they're supposed to), and we all fall in love and live happily after (with the person who will love us back forever). It sounds like a nice place, that world.
The time has come to take a serious look at Tatiana Maslany's performance(s). Because DAMN she's good.
Maybe character really is fate, as Heraclitus said. Maybe everyone gets exactly what they deserve—or what they think they deserve.
ORPHAN BLACK is a show that can move between genres with ease, and this week we plunge head-on into horror.
"First of His Name" explores a theme that has been present all season: the way women are forced to navigate this world differently than men do, and to find ways to use their power differently.
Perception is limited, understanding is always imperfect, and mingling one's life with the lives of others can have unforeseen and unfortunate consequences.
In a world in which every person is defined by their house, family, nation, class, gender, and allegiances, deciding to change can be a bit of a challenge.
No one is just one thing, and—whatever we think we know—anyone can surprise us.
It's a tricky thing to be a hero. And—as Game of Thrones continually reminds us—it's a trickier thing to believe in heroes.
This week, I'm beginning ongoing coverage of Orphan Black's second season with a review of the season premiere.
The wedding of King Joffrey the First provides an opportunity to contemplate the nature—and degrees—of evil.
"Everything has changed," Cersei Lannister says this episode, and she's right. Welcome back to GAME OF THRONES.
A series of greeting card ideas, based on the gentle, life-affirming wisdom of HBO's TRUE DETECTIVE.
Make no mistake, "The Time of the Doctor" is a mess: in fact, it's the mess Steven Moffat is trying to clean up after a three-year reconstruction project.
"The Day of the Doctor" is full of fan-service and tributes to both the old and new series, but at its core it is simply the next vital chapter in Doctor Who, one that fulfills what I have called "The Moffat Masterplan" and brings the past, present, and future of this show into glorious agreement.
"There will come a moment when you have to commit to this or bail," a character says in "The Asset." To be honest, I haven't completely decided yet, so I'm going to keep it short this week.
"0-8-4," the second episode of Agents of SHIELD, is not a quantum leap forward for the series—I doubt anyone is proclaiming this a classic to rival the best of Joss Whedon's work yet—but I'm starting to see some encouraging signs. This week's episode actually seemed like it was inching towards being a show I could invest in.
AGENTS OF SHIELD has got some wit, and it's got some moves, but it's only my trust in Joss Whedon that will make me stick around long enough to see if it has a soul.
"Mhysa" asks us to reconsider the concept of family, which has been so central to GAME OF THRONES.
When bad things happen to imaginary people: some thoughts on storytelling, sympathy, and "The Rains of Castamere."
As we discuss "philosophical differences," we learn it's not just the what of something that matters: it's also the why.
"The Name of the Doctor" is not perfect, and it does not make up for an uneven and scattered season, but it's a return to form for Steven Moffat, and a welcome revisiting of the underlying themes that made his first two seasons so powerful and so resonant.
"The Bear and the Maiden Fair" is mostly about sex, but—as Freud may well have said—sometimes a bear is just a bear.
GAME OF THRONES is no fairy tale. If we think this has a happy ending, we really haven't been paying attention.
Every fan of DOCTOR WHO has his or her own opinion on the "worst episode ever." But ask me today and my answer might just be different from the one I'd have given you yesterday.
The peaks and valleys are a large part of the appeal of GAME OF THRONES, and the highs would not seem so high, or the lows so low, if the emotional beats weren't completely earned.
Somewhere within the wreckage of "Journey to the Center of the TARDIS" there was a great episode of DOCTOR WHO to be found, but—like the Doctor—what we find instead is a big old mess in desperate need of a do-over.
"The Collaborators," and "To Have and To Hold" both deal with different facets of one of Mad Men's central themes: the peculiarly American trait of never being satisfied with what we have.
My perspicacious analysis of this episode can be summed up thusly: "HOLY FUCKING SHIT THAT WAS TOTALLY AWESOME."
"Hide" is not just the best entry in Series 7 so far; it's also a perfect example of how classic Who can be updated for modern times.
I take a little break from analysis, and approach "Walk of Punishment" as an excuse for some general appreciation and a long overdue geek-out. Because DAMN this show is good.
If I find myself just reviewing an episode, it usually means something has gone terribly, terribly wrong. So here's my review of "Cold War."
The man born as Dick Whitman had to die once to escape who he was, and now—as the world has changed unrecognizably around him—the carefully constructed persona he created just feels like another stagnant, stifling identity he longs to shed and leave behind.
Houses have fallen, families are scattered, and the old order changeth: so what will happen to all these orphans of the storm?
Neil Cross's "The Rings of Akhaten" calls back to classic Who in wonderful ways, and stands as one of the best episodes of the season.
Welcome back to GAME OF THRONES, and brace yourself. All men must serve…and all men must die.
DOCTOR WHO returns with a disappointing entry from Steven Moffat, in which the Doctor and Clara meet-cute—for the third time.
The 2012 Christmas special gives us memory-erasing worm, a spiral staircase to the clouds, and—of course—the titual killer snowmen from outer space. But "The Snowmen" is a little more complicated than that, and thematically far richer.
I enjoy the crazy-ass, batshit, random elements of American Horror Story, but I wish they were used with a little more purpose and planning. Even if the entire mission statement is to be scary, the show forgets that fear is a product of anticipation and dread: if you just fling things at our screens willy-nilly, none of them are going to register as they should.
Like the proverbial dog to vomit, I just can't help but go back and slurp up the messy, disgusting, gloriously guilty pleasure that is American Horror Story.
"Safe" and "predictable" are dangerous adjectives for a horror series, and 666 Park Avenue seems to have no real scares, no real surprises, and no real taste for the jugular.
Once upon a time, there was a little girl named Amelia Pond…
CBS is not even attempting to make the Sherlock Holmes story fresh: that is not the point. All they are trying to do is to use the Sherlock Holmes brand, cynically, to make us interested in yet another formulaic, cookie-cutter crime drama.
Last Resort is polished, powerful, and enjoyably preposterous. It's impossible to take it seriously, but it could be a lot of fun.
At this point in the season—with only one episode left before the hiatus, and only one more week before the Parting of the Ponds—an entry like "The Power of Three" represents a wasted opportunity on an epic scale.
Something called Revolution should not feel so formulaic and familiar.
"A Town Called Mercy" is an excellent reminder that it is possible to use the tropes of genre adventure to explore fairly complex ethical dilemmas. In fact, that's one of the things that Doctor Who does best.
If "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship" turns out to be the weakest episode of Series 7, we can count ourselves lucky—parts of it were tremendous fun, and it had just enough substance to save it from total irrelevancy—but it is both overstuffed and undercooked.
Series 7 hits the ground running hard with an impressively scaled, impeccably paced story that cleverly marries the near future of this show to its distant and recent past.
Our latest two episodes of Mad Men each feature a major character leaving Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. One leaves in a considerably more permanent fashion than the other, but I'd still be hard pressed to say which departure is sadder.
Horseshit is the foundation, glue, and currency of this entire society. For all the talk about honor in the Seven Kingdoms, it's lies that have the power to form alliances, grant kingships, topple lords, and move entire armies into battle.
As the penultimate episode of Season Two of GAME OF THRONES, "Blackwater" doesn't just meet expectations: it blows them out of the water.
Life is nasty, brutish, and short on Game of Thrones, so who could begrudge characters acting from the heart?
I had, this week, a moment of clarity about Mad Men: it was the realization that none of these people—not a single goddamned one of them—will ever, ever be happy.
"A Man Without Honor" is an interlude, of sorts, but it's the kind of interlude that lends color and depth to this entire season of GAME OF THRONES.
Animals have always been important symbols on GAME OF THRONES, and now, as the walls of civilization crumble, the wild things that live within us all are refusing to be tamed.
America is changing rapidly: roles are becoming less narrowly defined, identities are becoming more fluid, and self-fulfillment is becoming more important than stability and the traditional markers of success.
We're one king down, and those remaining may find that their power depends less on strength and more on the loyalty they are able to inspire.
"Far Away Places" plays out in three short stories, occurring simultaneously, in which characters grapple with the tentative solidity of their own lives, the slippery hold they have on who they are and what is important to them, and the changing, sometimes elusive nature of reality.
Some people are born evil, some become evil, and some—if they're not careful—may go through life with the best of intentions but still leave evil in their wake.
A few thoughts about The Short and Happy Life of Peter Campbell.
"What is Dead May Never Die" focuses on men who do not quite fit this society's harsh definition of manhood, as we see them fight to hold onto their hearts in a culture where a heart is largely seen as a weakness.
Mad Men is largely about the moment when white, middle-class America awakens from that squeaky-clean, all-white, suburban fantasy of itself. This season is the transition point where the dark undercurrent that has always run beneath that fairy tale begins to overwhelm it.